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Dozens dead as Russian trawler sinks off Kamchatka

AFP I A trawler of the same type as the Dalniy Vostok

A Russian freezer trawler with an international crew of 132 sank early Thursday morning in the Sea of Okhotsk off of the Kamchatka Peninsula and at least 54 crew members were killed, rescue workers said.

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Of the 132 people on board the Dalniy Vostok, 63 were rescued as the sea's temperature registered near zero degrees, Viktor Klepikov, coordinating captain of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky maritime rescue coordination centre, told reporters.

"The rescue operation is going on, we are still looking for 15 people," Klepikov said. "At this time we do not know what might have caused the tragedy."

More than 26 fishing boats in the area helped to rescue the crew members, emergency services said in a statement on their website. The fishing boats also recovered 54 bodies.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement that it is considering all theories but it is likely that the trawler hit “an object”, possibly ice, floating in the sea.

The accident occurred at about 4 am local time (1800 GMT on Wednesday). The trawler sent no distress signals prior to the sinking, the Interfax news agency said.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry sent an Mi-8 helicopter with rescuers and doctors aboard to deliver medical assistance and transport rescued crew members to hospitals in the city of Magadan, the ministry said on its website. It also set up a telephone hotline for families of the crew.

Among the 132 crew members, 78 are from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.

Some 1,300 people were involved in the rescue operation, emergency services said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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